Local Grass Fed Beef

Last week, at the Glenwood Farmers' Market, I stopped by Carroll Farm to Table, a local (Howard County) purveyor of pasture-raised meats. The man behind the stand was quite the salesman. He insisted the grass-fed beef burgers would be the best we've ever tasted. Now, at $6.99 per pound, they are also probably the most expensive I'll ever taste! Despite normally being a very frugal shopper, I somehow throw all sanity to the wind when shopping at the Farmers' Market. So I purchased a package of 4 frozen burgers, each patty weighing close to half a pound.

As our salesman insisted, the burgers did not shrink much when cooked. I was careful not to overcook them (a cardinal sin in my book!) but kept them medium rare, still pinkish red in the center. The burgers were VERY juicy. The lack of shrinkage is due (I assume) to the lack of added water pumped into the meat as is standard in the supermarket.

However, this beef is not 100% grass-fed. We were told the cattle are also fed a small amount of grain every day. There is no "grain finishing" as is standard on a feed lot, but the animals at Carroll Farm receive some grain along with grass. They do not receive any hormones or antibiotics, though, so this is a plus. The grain is to add marbling (fat) to the muscle meat.

As I mentioned, the burgers were extremely juicy. But the weird thing was they lacked the beefy flavor we were expecting. The texture was great, very tender, but the flavor was almost nil. Maybe I needed to season the meat more? But that beefy taste one expects, especially from grass-fed meat, was just not there.

As a comparison, I have enjoyed several burgers at Bistro Blanc where the local beef is sourced from TLV Tree Farm. These burgers have a distinct beefy flavor. In fact, I'd go so far as to say the burgers at Bistro Blanc are some of the best I've ever had. Anywhere. Period. And I am a MAJOR burger fan. Now, I'm not sure it's fair to compare professionally cooked burgers with my own home-cooking...

Carroll Farm to Table also offers chicken and Woodland Heritage pork raised on pasture. I assume these animals are also fed grain along with grass. While cows do not naturally thrive on grain, and often end up sick from eating corn, chickens are omnivores and can eat almost anything. (We raised chickens ourselves for 10 years and witnessed them eating some horrific things. I won't go into details for those of you who are squeamish.) Whole chickens are normally $4.50 per pound, but I just received an email announcement saying they are on sale this week for $3.50 per pound.

Carroll Farm to Table has a store on the corner of Manor Lane and Frederick Road. Check out their website at www.CarrollFarmtoTable.com for store hours and other locations. You can also sign up (as I did) to receive email announcements and updates. And you can catch them at the Glenwood Farmers' Market every Saturday.